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Topic: Which classics are "must reads"?

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Subject: Which classics are "must reads"?
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 11:42 AM ET
Member Since: 11/8/2007
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I'd love to read more classic literature but to be quite honest many are boring. Are there any classics out there that are easy to read as well as entertaining?

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 12:02 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2007
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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Anything by Jane Austen. You could start with those!
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 12:02 PM ET
Member Since: 5/5/2006
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I consider Gone With the Wind and Lonesome Dove classic must (good) reads! Ditto to Jane Eyre.

I bought the Jane Austen collection in one book..the reading is more difficult but if you go to Sparknotes and look at the character descriptions for each story it really helps!

Last Edited on: 7/23/08 12:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 12:17 PM ET
Member Since: 5/4/2008
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To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn...I love them both!

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 1:22 PM ET
Member Since: 9/6/2005
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I second To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind

I also loved Wuthering Heights

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 1:36 PM ET
Member Since: 7/1/2008
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That question is really open-ended. Many things are "classics"; i.e., part of some canon or publisher's campaign which are unreadable now, except to specialists, or to a great many people because they don't like that style or subject. Isaak Walton's The Complete Angler is a classic, but will be many folks idea of a waste of time. I myself have 2 degrees in English and can finish neither Moby Dick nor Middlemarch. OTOH, I cheerfully absorb Chaucer in Middle English every few years and will plow happily though a 3 vol 18th or 19th century novel (not Eliot).

You can get a good reference such as Hirsch's ot Fadiman's. You can go through the Great Books series.

Or you can give us a more information about what you like. Do you like adventure? Stories about the sea? Comic and/or funny books? Romantic fiction. What styles do you like? Do you want classic fiction or classic nonfiction? How much grinding of social and political axes can you tolerate?

In fact, list your 3 favorite things to read about and your 10 favorite books, and I bet we can come up with a 100 or so you will actually like.

Edit- Without fail, any time I say I have a degree in English I see after I have posted at least 3 egregious errors.

Last Edited on: 7/23/08 1:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 1:40 PM ET
Member Since: 7/1/2008
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Short answer: nothing is a must read after you have left school. you're on your own.

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 2:46 PM ET
Member Since: 4/10/2008
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Well, as far as To Kill A Mockingbird, I loathed it and almost couldn't finish it, but I had to in order for a class.  It was easy to read but just not my cup of tea.  I started Jane Eyre and couldn't get into it either so I have never gone back to it.  The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand has been recommended to me many of times.

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 3:45 PM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
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I think there are some good suggestions here.  What kind of books do you normally read and how does that apply to the classics?

Here are some of my suggestions:

Do you like the t.v. show "Lost?"  Then try THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND by Jules Verne.  You will see a lot of interesting connections....

Do you like coming-of-age stories about women?  I agree, try A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, or even LITTLE WOMEN.  Both are great stories, and told from a young woman's point of view.

Do you want something really entertaining that was banned for it's frank views on small town life?  I cannot recommend anything higher than PEYTON PLACE.  It has it all...love, fraud, dangerous secrets, freak accidents at carnivals.... While it may not be Shakespeare, it is well written fiction that brought a revival of the melodramas, and well worth checking out.


Last Edited on: 7/23/08 3:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 3:54 PM ET
Member Since: 11/8/2007
Posts: 247
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I'd prefer fiction. I read anything from Stephen King to Sophie Kinsella. The most recent books I've read and truly enjoyed were:  The Thirteenth Tale ,The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Water for Elephants, My Sister's Keeper, and The Time Traveler's Wife.



Date Posted: 7/23/2008 4:09 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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I love: East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (long but totally worth it), Dracula by Bram Stoker (real easy read), Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, any of the tales from Edgar Allan Poe, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, Dickens' Nicholas Nickelby, Our Mutual Friend and A Tale of Two Cities.

I'd advise picking something from a genre you like and trying that first, if you liked a Gothic story like the Thirteenth Tale you'll probably enjoy one like Jane Eyre.  If you like something light and romantic, try one like Pride and Prejudice.

Last Edited on: 7/23/08 4:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 6:34 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
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I like "The Prince and the Pauper"

My daughter read a LOT of classics in high school and detested anything by Charles Dickens, with the exception of "A Tale of Two Cities"  It is one of her all time favorites, a must read.  I haven't tried it, yet, but I intend to pick it up 'some day'...

ETA:  I have tried to read Jane Eyre a couple of times, never did get through it.

Last Edited on: 7/23/08 6:35 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 7:43 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2007
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My most recent "must read" classic is Tess of the D'Ubervilles.  I was completely surprised and captivated by the story as well as the writing style. 

I also recommend The Catcher in the Rye, Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Ethan Fromme, and The Great Gatsby. 

Plus, please by all means take a chance on the mother of all classics, and the best of them all: Gone With the Wind

I am sure you will not be disappointed in reading any of these.  I wish I could read them all again for the first time, these were that enjoyable.  Remember, classics are usually classics for a reason--they're great!

PS--for many years I thought classics were boring, too.  Such as Shakespeare and the like.  I think I started liking them better (and in fact, liking them alot) when I focused on the more modern classics.   

Last Edited on: 7/23/08 7:50 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 7:55 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2006
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Little Women is good. I really love The Catcher in the Rye and Brave New World . 1984 and Lord of the Flies are good books too.

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 8:02 PM ET
Member Since: 10/26/2006
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Wow, as previously mentioned, "classics" could encompass a whole slew of books.  I would recommend anything by Mark Twain (I found him humorous) or EM Forster's "A Room with a View" (if you find British humor funny). 

Most of the books I read during high school (Animal Farm, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies) are what I would also consider to be classics, though they not "heavy" reading.

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 8:43 PM ET
Member Since: 6/15/2008
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I just picked up a copy of Gone With The Wind at a garage sale a few weeks ago.  I plan on reading it again, for the 3rd time.  Another book that is a must read classic for me is A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.  This book is on my WL and I plan to read it again for the 4th or 5th time. 

I remember reading Animal Farm when I was in high school and it is a story that stuck with me.  I should read that one again too.

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 8:48 PM ET
Member Since: 5/5/2006
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I just finished A Tree Grows In Brooklyn...I second or third that one too!

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 8:56 PM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
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Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca and Dumas' The Black Tulip. Both are not super long and are gripping.

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 9:10 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2007
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This isn't just to promote my unpostable book. (Honestly!) But I just finished Dracula, and it was much better than I was expecting, either from a book written before 1900 (in general, I'm not a huge fan of the "classics") of from a horror story.  There were parts that were slow, but for the most part I liked the way the story was told through several viewpoints (journal entries, letters, etc.) and after a slow beginning it got to a point later in the novel where I didn't want to put it down.  Since finishing it, I've watched both the original movie (Bela Lugosi as Dracula) and the newer movie (Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins, etc.), and I think the story in the book is better than either of the movies.

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 9:27 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2007
Posts: 2,408
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Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is excellent. You might read this one before the new movie comes out!
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 10:05 PM ET
Member Since: 5/8/2007
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I loved:

The Count of Monte Cristo

Wuthering Heights

Pride and Prejudice

Gone with the Wind

Last Edited on: 7/23/08 10:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/23/2008 11:09 PM ET
Member Since: 5/21/2008
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I love anything by Jane Austen! Oddly enough, I also really loved Homer's "The Illiad" and "The Odyssey," Euripedes' "Medea," Sophocles' "Antigone," Shakespeare's "Hamlet," and a few others.  I also  really enjoyed Dante's "Inferno," but it was a bit challenging to get through at times. :)

Date Posted: 7/23/2008 11:16 PM ET
Member Since: 7/1/2008
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So many good books recommended. (Love Monte Christo, but it's not for everyone). Sounds as if you want a clean lined, strong plot with some complicated ethical issues. I am sticking mainly  to more modern classics. In no partcular order.  I promised 100, but just listed 50. These are not all, or maybe even the best, but the ones I think you might like.

  1. Sinclair Lewis Arrowsmith.
  2. Rudyard Kipling, Kim; Short Stories
  3. .Joseph Conrad, Secret Agent; Lord Jim
  4. John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga
  5. Pearl Buck, The Good Earth, Pavilion of Women, the Mother
  6. Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago
  7. John Steinbeck, East of Eden, Tortilla Flat (anything but Grapes of Wrath which is horribly flawed)
  8. William Golding Lord of the Flies
  9. Oliver La farge Laughing Boy
  10. Margaret Mitchell Gone withthe Wind
  11. JD Salinger 9 Stories
  12. Marjorie Kinnam Rawlings. the Yearling, Cross Creek
  13. Upton Sinclair the Jungle
  14. Herman Wouk The Caine Mutiny
  15. Betty Smith A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  16. Harper Lee to Kill a Mockingbird
  17. William Faulkner The Reivers (yes there eare better ones, but plots are more convoluted)
  18. Katherine Mansfield's stories
  19. Eudora Welty, stories, Delta Wedding
  20. Loius Auchincloss Portrait in Brownstone
  21. Dashiel Hammet, Maltese Falcon
  22. lLillian Hellman, CHildren's Hour; Pentimento
  23. Louisa May Alcott, the Little Women quartet
  24. Lawrence Durrell The Alexandria Quartet
  25. John Barth Chimera
  26. O'Henry stories
  27. Ambrose Bierce the Devil's Dictionary
  28. John Hershey Hiroshima
  29. Zor aNeal Hurston Most anything, Dust Tracks on  a Road
  30. Willa Cather My Antonia
  31. Charles Dickens, Bleak House, David Copperfield
  32. Thomas hardy, The Return of the Native
  33. Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre
  34. Jorge Borges, Fictions
  35. Alice Walker The Color Purple
  36. Raymond Chandler anything
  37. Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography
  38. Jane Austen Pride & Prejudice
  39. Colette Claudine, gigi, My Mothe's House
  40. Isak Dineson Out of Africa
  41. Anthony Trollope The Warden; Barchester Towers
  42. William Makepeace thackeray, Vanity Fair
  43. Mark Twain Tom, Huck, Prince and the Pauper
  44. Yukio Mishima the Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
  45. Alan Paton, Cry the Beloved Country
  46. Alexandre Dumas, Count of Monte Christo, 3 Musketeers
  47. Tolstoy, Death of Ivan Illich, War and Peace
  48. Henry James, but I am not sure which one. Maybe Washington Square or Daisy Miller
  49. Ditto Edith Wharton
  50. Virginia Woolf. The Years, Mrs Dalloway

Don't read these all at once. I got mental indigestion just reading and remembering them juxtaposed. Like garlic butter shrimp and blackberry cobbler, Fine on their own just not together.



Date Posted: 7/24/2008 8:57 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2008
Posts: 9,877
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After reading your list, I feel a bit like a Philistine.  I will not admit to how few I have read, but then I was not an English major.


About once a decade, I get into an "I've got to read more of those books I haven't read but everybody else has>"  Have found listening to these books is easier than reading them, especially Wuthering Heights. Recently I read Brideshead Revisited and liked (can't really say loved) it. More recently, tried to read a "classic" that I couln't get into. I can't even remember the title!!!

I like JK's take, nothing is a must read once you've left school. That has helped me redefine what I "should" read.

Date Posted: 7/24/2008 9:24 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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I second Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier, love love love that one.  Also, I really enjoyed Ovid's Metamorphoses for something fairy-taleish (there most of the better known classical myths) and they can get pretty bawdy at times.